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Each tick of the clock brings us ever closer to the Great Event, that grandest of all nights, Halloween. In the meantime, though, there are a few other things that are ticking down, too, and some will be over before that one comes to pass.

For those who have been following along, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the new, 5e-compatible Iron Kingdoms: Requiem books for Privateer Press. These tomes not only bring the classic Warmachine and Hordes setting to 5e for the first time, they also update the setting itself to the way it exists today, in the aftermath of the Claiming – also for the first time. And if you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry, the books will explain it.

Anyway, the latest installment is currently on Kickstarter and it’s entering its final hours. In fact, as I write this there’s only about a day left. It’s already funded, so at this point we’re just blowing away stretch goals, and while the stretch goal that’s a new adventure written by yours truly isn’t likely to materialize, there’s still some pretty cool stuff within reach. So, if you’ve been on the fence about it, now’s the time to get involved.

Plus, if you head on over to the Kickstarter page and check out the updates, you can get a gander of artist’s renditions of just a tiny handful of the many weird creatures I got the pleasure of designing this time around. And there’s plenty more (and plenty weirder) waiting in the wings where that came from.

And that’s not all. While the Kickstarter for Iron Kingdoms: Borderlands & Beyond closes up shop in about a day’s time, the Unwinnable subscription drive runs through the end of the month. For those who don’t know, Unwinnable is an incredible indie publication that pays its writers and publishes some of the best, smartest crit, essays, and cultural appreciation around – all based on an ad-free model that relies on your subscriptions.

We’ve already done really well on the drive, unlocking the “monster” theme issue that I absolutely had to get unlocked in order to survive, but we’ve still got more cool stuff up our sleeves, including a Doom-themed issue that’s about a minute away from unlocking. Besides movie reviews and my regular column on board games over at Unwinnable, I’ve also written long-form essays on everything from Monster Squad to my love of dungeon crawl games to, most recently, the weird fact that the original Universal Mummy sequels are actually set in the 1970s through the ’90s.

Few other publications would give me such free reign, so if you like reading the random nonsense that comes pouring out of my head, toss a coin to the folks at Unwinnable, who help to prop up such bizarro “journalism” from me and plenty of other incredibly talented writers and artists.

That may be the last you hear directly from me in this space before the one-two punch of my birthday and Halloween, but I’ll be very active on social media over the next few days, and there’s still a whole lot going on, so stay tuned…

I am not, generally speaking, here to tell you what to do. But there are exceptions to every rule, and I’m telling you now, if you like the kinds of weirdo reviews, columns, and other nonsense that I write, you want to subscribe to Unwinnable. More than perhaps any other periodical, Unwinnable has been giving me free reign to write about what I want, which usually amounts to random movie reviews and my regular monthly column on board games, “I Played It, Like, Twice.”

But that’s not all I write for them. I’ve written about my relationship with dungeon crawl games, about growing up with The Monster Squad, and, most recently, about the inadvertent science-fiction of the early Universal Mummy sequels. I’ve also written for their sister publication, Exploits, about everything from “Call of Cthulhu” to Turbulence 3 to Hammer’s weird cat-centric proto-slasher, Shadow of the Cat, and beyond.

And right now, Unwinnable is doing their annual subscription drive. And what that means to you, besides a chance to jump on board one of the most exciting publications out there, is opportunities to unlock exciting new content, as the drive continues. Notably, for those who are reading along on this here blog, there are two “theme issues” that can be unlocked if we get enough subscribers. And one of those themes is “monsters.”

As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited about that. I think you might be, too.

But my writing isn’t the only reason to throw your support behind Unwinnable. Hell, monsters aren’t even the only reason (they’re enough of one, though, right?) No, maybe the best reason to subscribe to Unwinnable (or back their Patreon) is that it is a routinely gorgeous publication, put out by smart, cool, thoughtful folks, filled with so much more than just clever and insightful vidjamagames criticism (though there’s plenty of that, too). All funded through an ad-free model that, not to get too NPR on you here, relies on your subscriptions to keep going.

If you follow me on social media, too, you’ll be hearing about this more before the subscription drive is done. For now, though, why don’t you listen to the pumpkin and go subscribe. The pumpkin thinks you should. The pumpkin doesn’t like to be disappointed…

Ever since the pandemic started, just about the first question anyone asks who hasn’t talked to me in a while is, “Have you been keeping busy?” To some extent, that’s a time-honored placeholder question, but in my case, it’s also often a question about my overall stability, since I freelance full time and work tends to happen either in drips or in floods.

Happily for me, pretty much ever since the pandemic started, it’s been the latter, rather than the former. There were a few months in there where clients were tightening their belts and I saw some lean moments, but for the most part it’s been feast, rather than famine, when it honestly could have gone either way. Turns out, when everyone is stuck at home consuming content, it can be a good time for the content creators.

Or “good,” anyway. I haven’t churned out a lot of fiction in this time because, let’s face it, my productivity, indeed my general habits and life cycle, have taken a weird hit from all of this, like they have for everyone. But I’ve kept busy with freelance work, the kind that pays the bills, and that’s not nothing.

Right now, I’m buried under one big project that I can’t really talk about, in addition to the usual stuff, and it’s only going to get heavier as its looming deadline continues to loom ever nearer. It’s good stuff – the kind of work that is both fun to do and will be fun to announce, when that’s possible – but it’s also stressful, as any big project always is.

Add to that a number of other factors – most of them secret identity stuff that I don’t really want to get into here right now – and, well, see the subject line of this post. You can see it on my Letterboxd, where May was the lightest month of the year so far, with only 13 movies clocked in the whole month. Unlucky, for some…

And I can feel it in, well, just about everything – a weight that presses down without surcease, a exhaustion that sleep can only do so much to cure. Insert that panel from Watchmen, about being tired of Earth and of these people, the tangle of their lives, etc. It’s not as bad as all that, though. Some of those external frustrations I was talking about are just putting extra weight on what is already a busy period – not only adding stress on top of stress, but making work harder to focus on, harder to do.

Which is all a long way of saying that I might be a little scarce; not that my being a little scarce looks, honestly, all that much different from my being here a lot. I’m still posting to Twitter every day, continuing my year-long daily aesthetic thread, sure, but also posting daily tweet-length flash pieces about giant monsters for the entire month of June. My usual columns and reviews will be popping up, and I’ll be doing other things. Movies at the movie theatre are becoming a thing again, which means the triumphant return of #AnalogSunday, the thing that I missed most of all the many things I missed during the pandemic.

In short, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll just be under the gun a bit, is all.

It’s all-too-easy to get drawn into the soft undertow of minutia and lose track of how much time has passed, how much has happened, what has changed. The sediment shifts so gradually that it seems like each day is largely the same as the one before, even when they aren’t. So, what’s been going on?

I got my second jab of the Pfizer vaccine a week ago and so far there’s nothing much to report. I was tired right after, and my arm hurt for a day or two, but no other ill effects, save for a disappointing lack of monsterism, as I reported on social media. It’s a surprising weight off my shoulders, honestly, given how low-risk my lifestyle is generally, which is good because my shoulders are going to need that extra weight freed up to hold the giant eyeball I’m hoping to get there.

While the production of new fiction remains throttled, I’ve been working on various freelance stuff apace, including forthcoming game writing projects that, for now, have to remain under wraps. (In case you missed the last game writing stuff I was doing, you can read a bit about it here.) I’ve been doing my usual stuff, too, watching weirdo movies and occasionally reviewing them at Signal Horizon and Unwinnable, as well as continuing to write my regular columns various places, ranging from my column on Friday the 13th: The Series at Signal Horizon to my column on board games at Unwinnable to my column on … whatever the hell at Weird Horror.

I’m also continuing to sort of accidentally co-host the Horror Pod Class at Signal with Tyler Unsell, where we talk about horror movies chosen more-or-less at random and try to apply their lessons haphazardly to the classroom. You can watch it live at the Facebook group or stream it wherever you get podcasts. Speaking of which, I recently bought a new permanent addition to my ensemble from 1000 Dead Draculas, which will be making its Horror Pod Class debut on the upcoming Viy (1967) episode.

In hobby-related news, I’ve played a few games of Warcry and more than a few of Warhammer Underworlds, and I’ve continued collecting the various Underworlds warbands as they’re released. Which means that I’m very excited about the recent announcement of the final warband for this season, Elathain’s Soulraid, because it involves a giant crab!

I’ve said before that Mollog’s Mob is never going to be unseated as my favorite band, and that’s still true. It is basically impossible to top a big, doofy monster with mushrooms growing out of his back who is followed into battle by a gaggle of squiggly beasts. But these guys might end up being a close second. Only time will tell…

I also finally got in my first (solo) game of Cursed City, and while nothing may ever quite top Silver Tower for me in the Warhammer Quest category, Cursed City was fun at first blush and, as with Blackstone Fortress (which I’ve owned for months and still haven’t played), the dynamite miniatures absolutely make it worth it, even without playing.

For those who have been following along with my recent adventures getting into (or back into, as the case may be) D&D, dungeon crawlers, board games, and so on, the latest installment of my “I Played It, Like, Twice” column is up at Unwinnable today, marking the confluence of all of those interests and more.

As I say over there, Warhammer was one of my earliest fandoms, and it was followed in short order by the Elric stories of Michael Moorcock. Both those and other things, along with my obsession with dungeon crawl board games with their delightful miniatures and tiles, all crash together in Warhammer Quest, a game that has been released in a variety of forms over the years.

As I mentioned in the column, I actually had the very first copy of Warhammer Quest, back when it neither needed nor had any subtitle. It was a bit of a mess in a lot of ways, but there was something magical about those illustrated dungeon tiles, the sensation of reaching a plastic doorway and turning over a card to see what waited on the other side, never quite knowing.

I’m happy to say that Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower keeps more than a little of that magic alive, and in a game that plays better than its predecessor ever did. I’m unhappy to say, though, that it’s now well and truly out of print. The game’s most recent incarnation, Blackstone Fortress, is a big deviation, taking the setting to the “grim darkness of the far future” of Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t played it yet, but it’s sitting on my shelf. Waiting.

Shortly after I finished writing today’s article, though, and shortly before it went to print, Games Workshop announced the next iteration of the Warhammer Quest franchise. Cursed City takes the action back to the Age of Sigmar and sounds like Castlevania by way of Warhammer. As I said on social media when the news broke, “It was nice knowing you, money.”

Warhammer Quest is also far from the only iteration of the popular setting that I’ve been enjoying during the pandemic, either. I’ve gotten heavily invested in Warhammer Underworlds, which released its new season recently, and which is probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing a tabletop wargame.

My favorite warband is Mollog’s Mob for … obvious reasons. But one thing I love about the game is its ability to allow you to (affordably) collect warbands, instead of collecting individual models for one faction, and having to leave the others on the vine.

While I’ve been getting back into Warhammer stuff, I’ve also not forgotten some of my other loves, and I recently had the opportunity to do quite a bit of work on the newest iteration of the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game from Privateer Press, this time compatible with 5e D&D. The Kickstarter for the books that I helped write is still underway and, as of this writing, has nearly quadrupled its funding goal, with a little over a week left.

I think it’ll be an interesting thing, both for newcomers to the setting and old hands who, like myself, have been around since the original Witchfire Trilogy all those years ago.

While I’ve been immersed in games a lot more lately – both writing and playing, or at least thinking about playing – I’ve also been hard at work on other things. The pandemic damaged my attention span for watching movies, but in January I finally seem to have gotten it back, and I’ve been back doing reviews again. I also contributed a second H Word column to Nightmare Magazine, about victims, volunteers, and how the Vietnam War changed horror.

I guess columns have been where it’s at for me, lately. In addition to that, and my aforementioned board game column at Unwinnable, as well as my “Grey’s Grotesqueries” column in Weird Horror, I just started a new monthly column at Signal Horizon, dedicated to deep dives into horror television series. If all goes according to plan, the first full year of “Something Weird on TV” will be dedicated to Friday the 13th: The Series, a before-its-time horror anthology-hybrid show that I had never actually seen even a single episode of before starting this column.

So that’s (some of) what I’ve been up to. To bring us back around to the beginning of this post, I used to have a handful of worn paperbacks of Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories that I read and re-read throughout high school. One of those was The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, which a friend had defaced by adding the word “Moon” after “Sailor” in ballpoint pen.

I don’t know if I still have that copy, but I hope I do.

Now that it’s December, I think I can say with finality that 2020 will mark the first year since 2015 that I haven’t had a new book out with my name on the spine. It would be tempting to chalk this up to, y’know, 2020, and it’s certainly why there may not be one in 2021 either, but publishing is a slow business, and anything that was going to come out in this dark year would have already been in progress before the year began.

In actuality, there is no reason – either sinister or benign – for there not being a book this year, just as there is no real reason for their being a book each of those others. My first collection came out in 2012, the same year that I co-edited Fungi with Silvia Moreno-Garcia. My second, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, was released by Word Horde in 2015. The following year saw the release of Monsters from the Vault, a collection of short essays I had written as part of a column about vintage horror cinema for Innsmouth Free Press.

In 2017, I released both my first and, thus far, only novel – a licensed work for Privateer Press – and a hardcover reprint of my first collection, with a couple of new stories and all-new illustrations by M.S. Corley. 2018 saw the release of my third collection, again from Word Horde, while in 2019 a follow-up to Monsters from the Vault hit shelves.

I have more than enough stories to complete another collection – probably a couple more – but the time is not yet right for any of them. The stories are there, but they do not all fit together. Eventually, those stories will find other stories and together they will form the collections they are meant to inhabit. Until that time, I keep churning.

The next book that’s likely to come out with my name on the cover is probably going to be Neon Reliquary, the short, occult cyberpunk novel that is currently being released in serial form at the Broken Eye Books Patreon. Some delays happened, and they are my fault, but the second installment should be up in the next month or two.

Several stories have already made their way out into the public in various places that are part of a “story cycle” based around Hollow Earths and similar pseudoscience. Once all of those have made their initial bows, the plan is to collect them – along with some original content – into a book, as well. Almost all of them are written and either published or pending publication – one has even made it into the Best Horror of the Year and been reprinted at Nightmare magazine – but various factors have delayed, well, everything, right?

I spent November working on a 40,000 word tabletop gaming-related work-for-hire project that I should be able to announce probably early next year. I had a few new stories published in 2020 that I’m quite proud of. More than in 2019, though not by much. “Prehistoric Animals” in the Weird Fiction Review, “The All-Night Horror Show” at The Dark magazine, “Manifest Destiny” in The Willows Anthology, which also reprinted some of my unfortunate juvenilia from a bygone age, “Screen Haunt” in It Came from the Multiplex, and “The Double-Goer” in Between Twilight and Dawn.

I’ve also sold several stories that have yet to see publication but should be out sometime next year. A Lucio Fulci sword-and-sorcery tribute in Beyond the Book of Eibon, “The Robot Apeman Waits for the Nightmare Blood to Stop” in Tales from OmniPark – both of which were funded via Kickstarter – and new stories in that Hollow Earth “story cycle” I mentioned that will be out in New Maps of Dream from PS Publishing and Tales from Arkham Sanitarium from Dark Regions Press. Plus some others that I can’t name just yet.

2020 has been 2020 for everyone. Someone on one of the Slacks that I’m on said that we are all a decade older than we were this time last year, which sounds about right. But so far I’m hanging in there, and I’m still banging out words on the regular, so expect to see more from me as we end this accursed year and start another, hopefully better one.

I hope you’re all hanging in there, too. Stay safe, stay weird.

I’ve never officially participated in National Novel Writing Month and, most likely, I never shall. This is not because of any grudge against NaNoWriMo so much as because I don’t really write novels and if I do, it will probably be under other circumstances.

In fact, the only novel I’ve ever written was a tie-in novel for Privateer Press penned, as fate would have it, largely over the course of a November and December back in 2016. (Which is, incidentally, also why I say that I haven’t ever officially participated in a NaNoWriMo – I did knock out 50,000 words of Godless in November of that year, because deadlines are a hell of a thing.)

It’s not quite so ambitious as that was, but this November I’m actually engaged in another work-for-hire project that is also game related, also due at the end of the month, and about 40,000 or so words of work.

It’ll be in a different form than Godless was and isn’t a sequel or anything, for those rare few who were hoping for such a thing. But once again I am experiencing some NaNoWriMo solidarity as I knuckle down to try to churn out a whole lot of words on top of my usual freelance work for the month.

Sadly, the nature of the project has to remain a secret for now, but as soon as I can let you know what it is, I certainly shall.

So, if you don’t hear from me much in November, that’s why. And if you hear from me a bunch more than usual? That’s also why.

Look, I don’t understand it myself – and, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t really tried very hard to understand it because most days just doing what I’ve gotta do to get by is enough – but reading has been really tough during the pandemic.

I don’t have any idea why (see above), but my to-be-read pile has basically not budged one micron since lockdown began. Ditto with writing fiction, for the most part.

Oh, I’ve been working, still. I’ve been freelancing at about the same pace I was before. I’ve read for work; done some copyedits that I was contracted to do. I’ve written nonfiction: articles and columns and also been working on some other … let’s call them projects. (Mostly homebrew game stuff no one will ever see.)

But when it comes time to actually put digital quill to page and write a story that I don’t already owe to anyone? It just hasn’t been there. Normally, that’s the horror of the writer, right? That we’ll wake up one day and it’ll just be gone. We won’t be able to do it anymore. There won’t be any stories there.

Yet, for whatever reason, I’m not too scared this time. This doesn’t feel like the end; it doesn’t really even feel like a dry spell. It just feels like the end of a long day of work, when you’re not feeling up to even watching a movie or anything more than staring at whatever happens to be on the TV at the moment.

So far, I’m okay with letting it just be that. With letting what I have to do to keep the lights burning and food on the table be enough. With my recent spate of dungeon crawl board games and D&D reading being what I do to keep out the dark, for the time being.

So far, so good.

So, it’s been a minute. (Approximately 28,800 of them, actually.) What have I been doing with myself during quarantine? Not what I would have expected, necessarily.

For example, unlike a great many people, I haven’t been watching a lot more movies or television, though, like, I gather, a great many other people, I also haven’t been reading any more books than I was before, maybe less.

Mostly, I’ve been working, and while that’s occasionally been on fiction, more often it’s been on, more or less, the same kind of freelance stuff that I was doing before the pandemic. I’ve also increased the frequency of my appearances on the Horror Pod Class, where we’ve been doing weekly episodes due to the lockdown.

Recent episodes have included talking with author Max Brooks about bigfoots and the reassuring quality of Peter Graves, chatting with Pitch editor and semi-professional podcast haver Brock Wilbur about how, where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see, and just our usual bullshit about cursed films.

None of that new fiction stuff is in any fit state for public consumption just yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some news on that front, too. My story “Screen Haunt” will be showing up in mailboxes and bookstores (if there are still such things) later this year in It Came from the Multiplex, a fun-looking antho from Hex Publishers themed around ’80s horror. My contributor’s copy came the other day, and the book looks fantastic, even if I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Speaking of reading, I somehow managed to swallow down my anxiety enough to perform the narration of my story “Dream House” for Pseudopod recently. (Listen to the story and you’ll hear why.) You have my apologies for the narration, but the story has always been a favorite, and it brings back good memories.

The lockdown means that I haven’t been out to the theater in a while, and there’s been a commensurate slowdown in my reviews of other titles, as well. But I haven’t been idle! Earlier this month, I kicked off the first in a new recurring column that I’ll be writing at Unwinnable in which I talk about the eternal allure of board games … especially those that we pretty much never play.

The first installment talks about playing Horrified in the midst of a global pandemic, which has naturally limited my playing options. I have plans for future installments that will hopefully include, y’know, playing them with actual other people. We’ll see.

On a similar note, I’ve also been digging into 5e D&D for the first time in a while and … enjoying it a lot more than I would have expected. While the lockdown has put certain necessary constraints on my actual playing options, I’ve really been enjoying what we have done, and just paging through the books and acquainting myself with setting and rules. I’m surprised, but happy to be so.

Oh, and I did that Penguin Classics cover generator thing that was going around for a minute there with my books, too. So that’s fun.

February has been extremely busy for me so far, and I’m still behind on lots of things from the cough that has kept me a prisoner since the end of October (it’s still here, by the way, but it is gradually weakening). Which is why you haven’t heard from me much in the last couple of weeks.

But last Saturday I went thrifting with Eli (of Analog Sunday fame) for his birthday, then back to his place to watch some weird tapes, as we are wont to do. Thrifting was a huge success, and I’ve been posting some of my loot over on Instagram, if you wanna go be jealous.

I’ve made a few other stops various places while I was out running this or that errand lately, and had similarly great luck, as has Grace in her efforts to track down rare and unusual dice. So, while February has still been extremely busy, it has also been nice.

I’ll take busy and nice. And today, I got an email from a client telling me that I was getting an unasked-for raise on my regular freelance rates from them due to the “consistent positive feedback from our editors in regards to your work.” Which is always a nice thing to hear.

So, not every day is great, but today is pretty good. I’ll take it.

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